Looks like someone didn’t water his wife’s plants while she was visiting her mother and got quite a scolding.
And no, I don’t know if Mr. Diamond is married, nor do I care. In this frothing-mad screed against the Agricultural Revolution Diamond goes from explaining how studies of skeletons from the hunter-gatherer age were taller and healthier than the later skeletons from the early agricultural period to ominous discourse on “royals” who wore gold hair clips and oppressed the peasants. He gives no reason as to why people might have had to choose to stay in one place and eat the few plants they could reliably grow every year. He seems to imply that a section of humans suddenly figured out how to get other humans — perhaps by some sort of early man hypno power, and for no other reason but sheer meanness — to drop their carefree and healthy wandering life for drudgery in the fields. He might as well say that green-skinned aliens came down from Pluto and caused the agricultural revolution. He gives no indication that maybe humanity was forced to do this because, except for some pockets here and there, the land had become unable to sustain a growing (despite the trendy birth-control Diamond claims hunter-gatherers practiced) population of hunter gatherers and their need for a “varied” wild diet. Well I saw something on tv recently — a Discovery or History Channel or something program on Stonehenge — that posited a similar theory to Mr. Diamond’s but took the less-chesty view that the reason people turned to agriculture from their own fancy-free hunter-gatherer ways was due to climate change: as the ice age wound down and the glaciers receded, the great herds began to die out. Therefore the deprivation and formation of people into hierarchical communities that all too often turned into despotic tyrannies was an effect, not a cause, of going farmer. But theories of population growth and climate change just aren’t as sexy as turning even this area of human life into yet another fulmination against the State™.
Does Diamond really think the human race should drop all this civilization stuff and go back to following the bison? I really don’t know what other reason he could have for writing this silly essay, except to start arguments and get noticed. Want proof that he is talking out of his hat? Scan this paragraph:
At this point it’s instructive to recall the common complaint that archaeology is a luxury, concerned with the remote past, and offering no lessons for the present. Archaeologists studying the rise of farming have reconstructed a crucial stage at which we made the worst mistake in human history. Forced to choose between limiting population or trying to increase food production, we chose the latter and ended up with starvation, warfare, and tyranny.
Oh yeah, it was all the fault of those stupid baby pushers. What else could it have been? I have a proposal to Mr. Diamond: why don’t you go off to the sands of the Kalahari to eat leaves and roots with your beloved Bushmen, and leave us here with the fruits of our awful civilization.